Commissioner for women affairs and social development, Hon. Fati Tasalla Ibrahim.

By Abubakar Hassan

Over three billion naira (N3b) has so far been paid to beneficiaries of the Federal Government Cash Transfer Programme in Niger state since the inception of the programme in 2016 to date.

The Head of the Cash Transfer unit in Niger state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hadiza Mohammed Shiru disclosed this while highlighting the activities of the unit during the weekly Radio Niger Audience Participatory Programme, “Contact,” Saturday.

She also disclosed that from inception of the programme to date, over N600m had also been received by the unit for other activities such as training, coaching and mentoring.

“Funds received for other activities, for training, coaching and mentoring from inception to date, in 2016, we received N7.8m, in 2017 we received N33m, in 2018 N77m, in 2019 N180m and in 2020 we received N309m. All these are for various activities which include supervision, monitoring, the biweekly coaching and mentoring, visit to various communities by the 318 Cash Transfer Facilitators in the local government areas,” she disclosed.

Hadiza Shiru explained that the Cash Transfer is a component of the Federal government social investment programme supported by the World Bank, and it started in 2016 with about 12 local governments benefiting in Niger state but by 2018 all the 25 local governments were on board.

She also revealed that they are presently paying about 19,573 beneficiaries across 802 communities in the 25 local government areas of the state, adding that a lot of activities had taken place since the inception of the programme to date because the programme is a Cash Plus initiative that you have to follow up the beneficiaries to ensure the money was well utilized.

The head of the Cash Transfer unit explained further that they have Facilitators in the 25 local governments that provides services to the beneficiaries where they live and part of the services were coaching and mentoring in which the beneficiaries were mentored on how to form cooperative, how to change their behaviour and skills.

She said there are about 805 active cooperatives under the programme out of which 505 have been duly registered, adding that about 1,117 additional businesses were established and that the total amount of money saved by the beneficiaries of the programme in various accounts across the state is N52.7m.

Explaining further, Hadiza Shiru said by the second quarter of this year they would be paying about 80,000 beneficiaries, out of which the state assisted in enrolling about 19,000 of the beneficiaries.

On the allegations of irregularities in the selection of the beneficiaries and the payments, the head of the Cash Transfer unit said all issues arising from the programme were just misconceptions, and that the beneficiaries targeting method was done by an independent unit and not her unit.

She also disclosed that the money paid to the beneficiaries were the Abacha repatriated funds, adding that when they started in 2016 they used Federal government funds but that from 2018 they started using the repatriated funds, adding that the project was been monitored by more than 10 organizations to ensure that those who received the money were the actual beneficiaries.

Hadiza Shiru said the beneficiaries were not faceless and that the expectation was to see people collecting money in the towns but that they work with people from very poor communities and as such one cannot find the beneficiaries in town and cities but at the grassroots.

She added that they do digital payments and the beneficiaries have payment cards and ID Cards, and that the households were the ones who identify who their care givers should be, reemphasizing that the Cash Transfer is not a faceless activity and anyone who needed information about the programme should feel free to come and make inquiry.

On money owed beneficiaries, she said they just finished paying the backlog of September to December, 2020 and that by the second quarter of this year the 2021 money including the arrears would be settled. “Recently in February, the July-August payments were made and the September to December payment is currently going on in some local governments. By second quarter that is by the end of this month the January to April payments will be made.”

She added that one of the major challenge they have in the implementation of the programme was lack of stakeholders buy in, and that the challenge which caused the delay in payment to the beneficiaries was moving the programme from office of the Vice President to the Ministry of humanitarian services, disaster management and social development, adding that the tenureship of some of the payment service providers had expired and they have to reapply for engagement.

Earlier, the State Commissioner for women affairs and social development, Hon. Fati Tasalla Ibrahim refuted the allegation that the support programmes of the ministry were hijacked by politicians, saying none of their programme had been hijacked and that those complaining might not have an insight on what was really happening in the Ministry.